List Of Commercial Space Flight Vehicles
Upon the end of the space-shuttle program this year the only way left to get people into orbit and to the International Space Station is to buy seats on Russia's three-person Soyuz capsules. Through its Commercial Crew Development program, NASA has given $50 million in grants to companies developing new spacecraft capable of carrying people and supplies into orbit and to the space station. These companies and their projects are listed below.
- Located: California
- Founded: 2002 by Elon Musk (PayPal cofounder)
- Spaceship: Dragon
- Mission: In December 2010, Space X became the first company to launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft, positioning the firm as the early leader in private space travel. Its Dragon vehicle ($300 million to develop and build) is propelled by the companyís Falcon 9 rockets and will initially be used to service the International Space Station. The equipment could be ready for manned flights in the next two years.
- Located: Virginia
- Founded: 1982 by David Thompson, Bruce Ferguson, and Scott Webster
- Spaceship: Cygnus
- Mission: Orbital has been contracted by NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station using the Cygnus spacecraft. The vehicle will be propelled by the companyís Taurus II rocket and will reportedly take off from Virginia. The Orbital founders have drawn up plans for a small manned spacecraft, so the company may add astronauts to their cargo in the future.
- Located: New Mexico
- Founded: 2004 by Richard Branson (Virgin Group founder)
- Spaceship: SpaceShipTwo
- Mission: Unlike the other companies on this list, Virgin Galactic developed vehicles that take off airplane-style, without the use of rockets. The company is moving toward suborbital tourist flights, during which travelers will spend roughly four weightless minutes in space before returning to Earth. The flights, which are scheduled to begin next year, will cost at least $200,000.
- Located: Nevada
- Founded: 1999 by Robert Bigelow (Budget Suites of America owner)
- Spaceships: Sundancer
- Mission: Bigelow Aerospace specializes in inflatable, live-in spacecrafts and has launched two small prototypes: Genesis I and Genesis II. The company has developed a much larger inflatable space station called the Sundancer, which it hopes to send into space in 2014. Bigelow has announced plans to develop a station that would allow astronauts to live on the surface of the moon.
- Located: Washington
- Founded: 2004 by Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com founder)
- Spaceship: New Shepard
- Mission: Blue Origin has already partnered with NASA on several projects in the past and began testing its own spacecraft in 2006. The New Shepard model consists of a pressurized capsule that will carry astronauts and equipment into space and will take off from Blue Originís launch site in Texas. The firm expects to launch unmanned flights later this year and manned flights by the end of 2012.